Hoooo is this for?

A few weeks ago I posted a sketch of an owl that was part of a personal project I was working on.  Whelp…as my sis popped it up onto Facebook this morning, there is no need to hide it any longer.  The piece I was working on was a poster for my soon-to-be-born nephew.  We’ll just call him “Soon-For-This-World.”

My sis, Soon-For-This-Word’s soon-to-be-mother, has always been in love with a couple of line from Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man…”

To dance beneath the diamond sky

With one hand waving free

 She asked me to create something using that lyric many moons ago to go in Soon-For-This-World’s bedroom.  Beautiful imagery, but I had no idea how I was going to represent this for a baby/kid’s room.  Starry sky…Cute animals…Dancing…Hand waving…ummmmm…

Concept-sketchAs always, I began by just drawing in my sketchbook until I came up with a concept that I liked.  I liked the idea of the vivacious, free spirited owl (typically stoic and wise) and the tentative raccoon (typically sneaky or mischievous) playing against their idiosyncratic representations.  The owl and raccoon worked out brilliantly, as both critters feature prominently in the decoration of Soon-For-This-World’s room (Got lucky on that one.  Would have surely put my money down on turtles and frogs.  Phew).  I also wanted to incorporate maple leaves as these were thematic in my sister’s wedding.  With all of the elements in place, I went on to thumbnail it out so that everything would fit on the page in a way that worked for me.Thumbnail

After that, put on some tunes and draw… and draw… and draw.


Once I had the drawing where I wanted it, I scanned it into the computer and painted it in Photoshop, using a mix of translucent water color and opaque pencil layers.  The biggest challenge of this painting was keeping the characters front and center in a night environment that really called for a desaturated color scheme.  Strong silhouettes and generously applied highlights seemed to solve get me past that particular hurdle.owl-raccoon-poster

Once that was done, it was off to the printer’s, buy a frame, and wrap that sucker up.

Now Soon-For-This-World’s daddy just needs to hang it up straight. 😉shannon-poster


The Next Big Thing Blog Tour meets The Stone Man

The Next Big Thing blog tour has arrived at Made of Lines.  It is a global blog tour that was started in Australia to bring awareness about authors and illustrators and their current book/project.  Obviously, it has spread.  I want to give a huge shout out to the stunningly talented (and just plain great) Greg Matusic for tagging me on this tour.  Do check out his work.  His pirates will surely make you smile, me hearties, and who could ask for more.

I’ve been asked to answer 10 questions about my current book-in-progress.  So let’s have at it.  Brace yourself.  Once I get started.  It is hard for me to stop.

1) What is the working title of your next book?

My book is called The Stone Man.


Earliest Stone Man sketches from way back.

2) Where did the idea come from for the book?

 The Stone Man arrived through a relationship I had with a kid I was working with a number of years ago.  See question 9 – Who or what inspired you to write this story?

 3) What genre does your book fall under?

The Stone Man is a fantasy picture book.  Something of a fairy tale.

4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?


Main character sketches.  I’ve changed her look a number of times.   I like to sketch in stark black and white. It keeps me working fast and loose.

Can I go back in time and grab young Jodi Foster?  I really don’t know the names of today’s ultra talented child actors.  While the Stone Man would have to be animated, he would need a voice actor with a deep, gravelly voice.  Has James Earl Jones done any voice work? 😉


The Stone Man sketch

5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

A broken-hearted little girl seeks to separate herself from family and friends by moving to a small uninhabited island (with unexpected results). <—– No one said anything about parentheticals.

6) Who is publishing your book?

Who knows?  The truth is that The Stone Man is a work in progress.  It will be shopped out to publishers once it is a more polished product.12-stoneman2-b

7) How long did it take you to create the illustrations?

I liked Greg’s answer of “forever.”  That feels about right this Sunday morning.  With The Stone Man currently being a personal project without deadlines, I have taken it all back to scratch a couple times to redesign my approach or examine character design/costuming/setting/etc.  That said.  I believe all the details are worked out now, and things are starting to move.

To address the true intent of this question, it seems like the average illustration is taking me between 10 and 20 hours.11 stoneman1

8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

While I wouldn’t dare compare my story to these, when I think about heartfelt fantasy for children, there are two books that I hold in highest esteem.  Those are The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane and The Tale of Despereaux by the amazing Kate DiCamillo. I love how these books do not pander to children.  They tell fantastic stories in ways that feel authentic to the human experience, both the joy and the pain, in a way that is completely relatable for kids.  I read both books each year with my class, and we always end up in sniffles and tears at the end.

Another book that is way out of genre, but I feel relates, is Patricia Polacco’s Thank You Mr. Faulker.  Man, that book is heavy.  The anguish of poor Trisha in the story is palpable.  As an adult, I sometimes find it tough to read.  But the kids in my class?  They cheer when I bring it out.  That’s no hyperbole.  Cheers from eight-year-olds for a book about a dyslexic girl who is being bullied.  That is righteous stuff.

Like I said, I wouldn’t compare The Stone Man to those classics, but I keep the spirit of those stories in mind while I write and illustrate.

9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?

The Stone Man was inspired by a 9 year old girl I worked with a number of years ago.  She had experienced a tragic loss in her life and had begun the process of building walls around herself.  Very specifically, she built a wall right in front of me.  Frankly, this made my job incredibly challenging and frustrated me to no end.  I can’t tell you all the strategies I attempted to crack through the stony surface.  No luck.  Truth be told, I don’t think I ever could have broken through that wall.  Too strong.  She would have to disassemble it herself.  What I could do though, is put myself out there for her.  It turns out we all have walls of some sort.  So I took down my own and waited.  The Stone Man is for us.

10) What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?

While The Stone Man is a very personal story, it is also very accessible.  The fantastic elements will grab those interested simply in a little story escapism, but I believe the human element is what will stick with readers.  I know the story, and I still can’t wait to see it.  I hope others will feel the same.


Color test

An extra thank you to Greg Matusic for getting my rear back into gear on this project.